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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

whether the respondents-workmen are entitled to the back wages till the beginning of January, 1995 or till January, 1999.= the industry was not functioning after January, 1995, there is no justification in entering a different finding without any further material before the Division Bench. The appellate bench ought to have noticed that the statement of MW-3 is itself part of the evidence before the Labour Court. Be that as it may, in an intra-court appeal, on a finding of fact, unless the appellate Bench reaches a conclusion that the finding of the Single Bench is perverse, it shall not disturb the same. Merely because another view or a better view is possible, there should be no interference with or disturbance of the order passed by the Single Judge, unless both sides agree for a fairer approach on relief. When the matter came up before this Court on 08.07.2013, the Court directed the appellant to file an affidavit indicating the actual year of closure of the industry so as to determine the question as to from what date retrenchment compensation should be paid to the workmen. Accordingly, affidavit dated 11.07.2013 was filed wherein it is clearly stated that the industry became non-functional by the beginning of January, 1995 and remained defunct thereafter. In the counter affidavit filed by the respondent-workmen also, there is nothing to establish that the industry was functioning thereafter. Hence, the order for payment of back wages beyond January, 1995 is vacated, and in all the other aspects, the order passed by the Division Bench is retained. In case, the workmen have not been paid the benefits which they are entitled to, the same shall be paid within a period of three months from today, failing which, the respondent-workmen shall be entitled to interest at the rate of 10 per cent per annum.


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                       CIVIL  APPELLATE  JURISDICTION


                         CIVIL APPEAL NO.14 OF 2016
                   (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 13908/2013)


THE MANAGEMENT OF NARENDRA &
COMPANY PRIVATE LIMITED                      … APPELLANT (S)

                                   VERSUS

THE WORKMEN OF NARENDRA & COMPANY      … RESPONDENT (S)


                               J U D G M E N T


KURIAN, J.:


Leave granted.


Short question is whether the respondents-workmen are entitled to  the  back
wages till the beginning of January, 1995 or till January, 1999. The  Labour
Court, Bangalore by award dated 02.08.2002  directed  reinstatement  of  the
workmen with 50 per cent back  wages.  That  award  was  challenged  by  the
appellant before the High Court of Karnataka at Bangalore by judgment  dated
14.03.2008 in  Writ  Petition  No.  41489  of  2002.  Though  the  appellant
attacked the award on several grounds, the learned Single Judge declined  to
interfere with the award on reinstatement. However, taking note of the  fact
that the industry was virtually closed by the beginning  of  January,  1995,
it was ordered that the award on back wages would  be  limited  to  January,
1995. The learned Single Judge, in fact,  had  entered  a  finding  in  that
regard which reads as follows:

“From the record it  shows  that  the  industry  was  functioning  till  the
beginning of 1995 and the Union though has led  the  evidence  but  has  not
proved as to whether the industry was functioning thereafter or not.”



In appeal, the Division Bench  took  the  view  that  apart  from  the  sole
evidence of MW-3, there was no other evidence on record to  prove  that  the
industry was not functional after  January,  1995.  However,  there  was  no
dispute  with  regard  to  the  fact  that  the  industry  was  closed,  and
therefore, reinstatement was not possible. In that background,  without  any
further material available on record, the Division Bench took the view  that
interest of justice would be met by extending the benefit  of  50  per  cent
back wages upto the end of January, 1999  and  consequential  benefits  with
closure compensation as well as gratuity upto that date. We may extract  the
relevant consideration by the Division Bench in the impugned judgment:

“… According to MW-3, the machines were operated only till the beginning  of
January, 1995.  However,  to  substantiate  that  contention,  there  is  no
evidence on record. In the light of such  evidence  on  record,  it  is  not
possible to record a categorical finding that the  industry  was  closed  in
the year 1995 itself. Having regard  to  the  fact  that  the  industry  was
closed, the order of re-instatement  has  been  set  aside  by  the  learned
single Judge and the workmen were entitled to retrenchment compensation  and
only 50% back wages is awarded, we are of the view  that  justice  would  be
met by extending the benefit of 50% back wages upto the end of January  1999
and  they  are  also  entitled  to  consequential  benefits   with   closure
compensation as well as gratuity upto that date. …”



Once the learned Single Judge having  seen  the  records  and  come  to  the
conclusion that the industry was not functioning after January, 1995,  there
is no justification in entering a  different  finding  without  any  further
material before the Division  Bench.  The  appellate  bench  ought  to  have
noticed that the statement of MW-3 is itself part  of  the  evidence  before
the Labour Court. Be that as it may, in an intra-court appeal, on a  finding
of fact, unless the appellate Bench reaches a conclusion  that  the  finding
of the Single Bench is perverse, it  shall  not  disturb  the  same.  Merely
because another view or a better  view  is  possible,  there  should  be  no
interference with or disturbance of the order passed by  the  Single  Judge,
unless both sides agree for a fairer approach on relief.

When the matter came up before this Court on 08.07.2013, the Court  directed
the appellant to file an affidavit indicating the actual year of closure  of
the industry  so  as  to  determine  the  question  as  to  from  what  date
retrenchment compensation  should  be  paid  to  the  workmen.  Accordingly,
affidavit dated 11.07.2013 was filed wherein it is clearly stated  that  the
industry became  non-functional  by  the  beginning  of  January,  1995  and
remained  defunct  thereafter.  In  the  counter  affidavit  filed  by   the
respondent-workmen also, there is nothing to  establish  that  the  industry
was functioning thereafter.

Hence, the order for payment of back wages beyond January, 1995 is  vacated,
and in all the other aspects, the order passed  by  the  Division  Bench  is
retained. In case, the workmen have not been paid the  benefits  which  they
are entitled to, the same shall be paid within  a  period  of  three  months
from today, failing which,  the  respondent-workmen  shall  be  entitled  to
interest at the rate of 10 per cent per annum.

The appeal is partly allowed as above. There shall be no order as to costs.



                                              ………………………………………………J.
          (KURIAN JOSEPH)


                                             …………………………………………………………J.
         (ROHINTON FALI NARIMAN)
New Delhi;
JANUARY 4, 2016.

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                                                                  REPORTABLE


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